From the dazzling spectacle of Burgos Cathedral to the cavernous nave of Palma Cathedral or the lacy splendour of San Juan de los Reyes, Spain preserves a remarkable variety of inventive but little understood Gothic buildings. Yet Gothic architecture in Spain and the Spanish kingdoms has traditionally been assessed in terms of its imitation of northern European architecture, dismissed for its ‘old-fashioned’ or provincial quality, and condemned for its passive receptivity to ‘Islamic influence’. But did imitation really triumph over invention in the architecture of medieval Iberia? Are the two incompatible? Can inventio and imitatio offer useful or valid analytical tools for understanding Gothic architecture? And to what extent are invention or imitation determined by patrons, architects, materials or technologies? This essay collection brings together leading scholars to examine Gothic architecture from across Iberia from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century, and provides the first significant account of Spanish Gothic architecture to be published in English since 1865.
Islamic Art Circle Lecture: Professor Luis José García-Pulido, ‘Water to Create a Paradise on Earth. The Alhambra and its Hydraulic Supply System’, SOAS, 4 December 2019, Paul Webley Wing (Senate House), Wolfson Lecture Theatre, 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Alfonso X ‘the Learned’ of Castile (1252–1284) was praised in his lifetime as a king who devoted himself to discovering all worldly and divine knowledge. He commissioned chronicles and law codes and composed poems to the Virgin Mary, he gathered together Jewish scholars to translate works of Arab astrology and astronomy, and he founded a university of Latin and Arabic studies at Seville. Moreover, according to his nephew Juan Manuel, Alfonso was careful to ensure that ‘he had leisure to look into things he wanted for himself’. The level of his personal involvement in this literary activity marks him out as an exceptional patron in any period. However, Alfonso’s relationship with the arts also had much in common with that of other thirteenth-century European royal patrons, among them his first cousin, Louis IX of France. Like his contemporaries, he relentlessly used literary works as a vehicle to promote his royal status and advance his claim to the imperial crown. His motivation for the foundation of the university at Seville was arguably political rather than educational, and instead of promoting institutional learning during his reign, Alfonso preferred to direct the messages about his kingship in the lavish manuscripts he patronized to a restricted, courtly audience. Yet such was the interest of the works he commissioned, that those who could obtain copies did so, even if these were still incomplete drafts. Three codices traditionally held to have been copied for Alfonso in fact show how this learning reserved for the few began to filter out beyond the Learned King’s immediate circle.
Kirstin Kennedy is a curator of metalwork (specializing in silver) at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. She previously held a British Academy Post-Doctoral Fellowship at King’s College London, in the Department of Spanish and Spanish American Studies (2000–2003).
Workshop: 14:00–16:00 Lecture and reception: 17:00–19:00
A lecture and recital by musician, writer and teacher Marc Loopuyt on Muslim, Jewish and Christian music of Medieval Spain, focusing on the rabab and the oud, and on articulation techniques. Articulation in stringed musical instruments from the East will be put in relation with Paganini’s Suonare Parlante, with bird song and the mythical language of the birds.
The evening lecture will be preceded by an afternoon workshop on the practical foundations of traditional mode based improvisation and ornamentation—details to be finalised. Born in France in 1947, with French, Dutch, English and Caucasian roots, Marc Loopuyt discovered the flamenco guitar via immigrant Spanish workers, and subsequently spent three years in Spain learning how to play it. Interested in the strong “colours” in flamenco singing, he crossed the Mediterranean and settled for nine years in Morocco, learning to play the oud. Attracted by the art of the Turkish master Cinuçen Tanrıkorur, he became his disciple and spent many years travelling and living in Turkey and the Middle East, as well as staying for one year in Azerbaijan with the singer Agha Karim Bey. Marc Loopuyt taught for 25 years in the Music Conservatory of Lyon, and has published, performed and recorded widely.
Click here for an excerpt from his flamenco-influenced piece Farruca. Supported by the Cassal Trust, the Matheson Trust.
The Archaeology of Medieval Spain 1100-1500, edited by Magdalena Valor and Avelino Gutiérrez (Sheffield: Equinox Publishing, 2014) ISBN 9781845531737.
This book is the first attempt to make sense of the new data for the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries, a period when Spain was the hinge or fulcrum between Christianity and Islam, and that saw the gradual displacement of the previous Islamic culture and way of life by that of the Hispanic kingdoms.
Magdalena Valor is Professor of History and Medieval Archaeology at the University of Seville. Avelino Gutierrez is Professor of Archaeology at the University of Oviedo.
John Schofield has contributed the introduction and concluding chapter (‘Hopes for the future’). The book is published in the series ‘Studies in the Archaeology of Medieval Europe’ of which John was the founding editor. John says in his introduction that Spain was late in developing modern archaeological services but has since caught up: since the mid-1980s there has been ‘an explosion of archaeological excavations in towns and countryside, resulting in a mountain of new data, most of it undigested’.